A conversation about meaning: with Jesus, Thoreau, Holmes, and yours truly

Wednesday evening my “The Men’s Room” small group wrapped up our three-month study of 10 Life-Charged Words.

Conversation centered around the following familiar quotes that open the final chapter. The first, from 1854, was penned by Henry David Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

The second comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes (1858): “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music still in them!”

I asked my friends if they thought Thoreau and Holmes were possibly exaggerating, or employing poetic license, and if they believed the ideas parsed in the mid 19th Century still held true today?

SHADOWS OF THE POSSIBLE: The response was unanimous. Rather than outdated, Thoreau and Holmes presented ideas that have even more meaning today. The world we are living is heavily populated with people who live as shadows of the possible.

“And is that the way you feel about your life?” I asked.

“Not even remotely,” they replied. “At least,” some added, “not any more.”

IMG_3552FAITH-LIFE: So I told the men to move beyond the particular words and ideas that have comprised our “10 Life-Charged Words” study, and – instead – think about themselves.

I then asked them to think for a couple of minutes, and to come up with one or two words that represent something that faith has given them, something they believe our “desperate,” “song deprived” world needs.

I got the ball rolling with “Peace,” I said that the assurance that comes with faith has gifted me with a uniquely Jesus-oriented quality of peace in my spirit. “It’s something I don’t see much of outside of faith,” I said.

Then we simply went around the circle. And, one by one, my friends talked about the difference faith in Jesus has made (is making) in their lives. Love, thinking before I speak, acceptance, sincerity, leadership, listening, compassion, grace, meditation, value…. They spoke the word, then they explained what they meant.

What was spectacular about the sharing was the sincerity, the authenticity, the I-couldn’t-make-this-up-if-I-triedness of their simple affirmations.

WE HAVE THE ANSWER: When the conversation slowed down I wrapped up our discussion with the following: “We live in a world defined by crying need. People are unequipped to meet the challenge of living life-charged lives. There’s quiet desperation; there’s resignation; there’s a marked absence of those life-giving qualities I just wrote on the white-board; and there’s death, with the music still undiscovered and unenjoyed.”

I went on: “And yet here we sit, connected enthusiastically to the answer to this world’s deep need. Our question has to be this, ‘How can we communicate the Gospel of Love in such a way that it will even begin to be heard with an open spirit?'”

10 Life-Charged Words offers the following thoughts in the final three pages.

  • “Life-Charged men are men who let their song find its voice.” (p. 153)
  • “The way that Christians live tells the truth about the gospel they profess to believe.” (p 154)
  • “Our opportunity and our responsibility as followers of Jesus us to live in such a way that light and life spill out of us from the moment we wake up every morning and invite Jesus to live through us.” (p 154)

So what’s stopping us? – DEREK

One comment

  1. Hey there Derek.

    I think that the separate quotes herein are even more meaningful than the viral inaccurate combined one. They sure play well together. Sounds like a really good discussion you all had.



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